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Old 12-15-2013, 02:07 AM   #16
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Location: Gympie QLD
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Originally Posted by stan.riner View Post
My wife and I have lived here for 6 months. We love it here and can't wait to make the trip as soon as time permits . One or the other of us rides her ttr 250 every day (my xr 250 is broken) She teaches at a local high and middle school so she's very emursed in the Vietnamese culture.
I can remember when you first started asking questions before you moved there, sounds like you're enjoying it.
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Old 12-15-2013, 12:59 PM   #17
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A $10 hotel and a $10 meal doesn't make sense...

Day 6 - Sunday, November 10
Distance - 152kms ~ 7hrs (Cho Ra - Bao Lac)
Route - Cho Ra east on Hwy #279, north on Hwy #212 to Tinh Tuc, then north on #34 to Bao Lac.
Hotel - Song Gan Hotel - Bao Lac (200,000d = ~$10)
Weather - Mixed bag. Mostly mixed sun and cloud in the morning and then a bit of spitter-spatter rain in the pm

As it was our second day on the bikes, we woke up with a tad more excitement and a little less trepidation. I think we were both still a little bit antsy and anxious getting on the bikes, but getting started for the day in a chill village, with little traffic was a lot less intimidating than the previous day in Hanoi.

As Cho Ra wasn't much of a centre with few places to eat, we decided the night before that we would eat out of our 'snack-bag' for breakfast. We sat on the front steps of our Cho Ra Hotel and had a quick bite before hitting the roads.

We travelled east along Hwy 279 for roughly ~20kms before reaching the smaller 'secondary' road north - Hwy 212. In my map book and on my GPS, hwy 212 looked like a smaller road, but it headed directly north in the direction we were wanting to go.

Posing with our trusty Hondas

The vistas along the roads were incredible, the mountains continued to slowly grow larger and the valleys were chocked full of rice paddies and the rest. We were in awe with almost every corner we would go around. Our senses were being bombarded by sights, smells and sounds (one of the hardest thing to put into words).

**( I apologize in advance for some blurry images, but I figure I'll include them anyway. I'm no pro photographer and a lot of these were shot with my right hand on the throttle, bumping down the road, pointing my iPhone, snapping a pic and hoping for the best - all part of the adventure.)**

This was the start of our secondary road north - Hwy 212.

Hwy 212 was interesting. It was mixed gravel and pavement, with mammoth potholes and all, literally a combo of everything. The route was absolutely beautiful, I would highly recommend this road. We zig-zagged up and down, back and forth, in and out of valleys, and all at a snails pace. At times, I would look down at a road far below us figuring we were going a different direction and sure enough, that is the road we would eventually end up on. This kept happening throughout this route. We covered very little distance after leaving Cho Ra as this zigzagging was time consuming, but it was a perfect second day on the road. So much to see and to take in.

SpotWalla maps link:

Open the link below and click on the 'adjustments' window on the left side-bar, then change History to 'All' - If you zoom into this area in the north, you'll notice how windy and twisty each section of road is. Unfortunately, my GPS 'Spot' tracker didn't send some signals at times, therefore our 'trip-line' sometimes looks straight, but I'm documenting the roads we were on at all times.

Local kids would hear our bikes, see our flashy colours noticing immediately that we were not locals or people they actually knew, and the would frantically start waving and saying 'Hello!', we had the warmest welcome ever from these guys.

The muffler on my XR 150 was noisier than most of the other scoots, so I'm sure this also helped them in realizing it was something different coming down the road towards them.

Amanda waving at the little guy far below.

He came running down the road full-throttle waving at us. I think we wanted to climb the bank to say hi, but we kept slowly plugging along knocking down our kms to our next destination.

We would eventually end up on the road, way down below.

Amanda taking it all in.

Another road-side break. Even with the therma-rest canoe pad that I brought from home, by butt was constantly sore on the seat of the XR, so road-side breaks were always welcomed. They were an excuse to shoot more photos, enjoy more visits, spend some quality time with my beautiful riding partner off the bikes, and to have another snack.

Our route north eventually linked up with Hwy #34 north. It was the main route from Cao Bang to our east so the pavement got much better.

As we continued to travel north, the mountains around us started to get higher and the vistas and views continued to be spectacular.

Throughout the day, we were watching the weather closely. Super storm 'Haiyan' had devastated the Philippines days before, and it was set to hit the shores of Vietnam in a day and then move inland and slowly north. Forecasters were hoping that it would settle and dissipate once it hit landfall in Vietnam, but with the strength the storm had, they were unsure of any of this.

With the threat of the storm in the backs of our minds, we were trying to enjoy our every turn and without talking about it too much, we were both slightly concerned.

Stopping for a break off Hwy #34 north just south of Bao Lac.

A couple of happy Canadian-Kids on an incredible adventure.

While trip planning back in Canada - we had decided to do the famous 'Northern-Loop' of Vietnam backwards. When I say 'backwards', most do this loop in a clockwise direction from Hanoi, leaving north-west and then eventually heading east and eventually back south to Hanoi. Now this would have been fine had we been going on a loop Hanoi - Hanoi.

Our planned route was to continue south, eventually all the way to Ho Chi Minh City. I had read in other trip reports about the horrible highways skirting southern Hanoi. Doing the traditional northern loop clockwise would generally put riders on these busy highways avoiding Hanoi, and continuing south on main transport routes loaded with large trucks and much more traffic. I figured, to avoid this, we do the northern loop 'backwards' in a counter-clockwise direction and avoid this horrid mess altogether.

With this plan, we faced one major concern:

Once foreigners enter the Ha Giang Province in the north where Vietnam borders China, it is mandatory that travellers have a permit to allow them into this region. The popularity of this route has been increasing more and more over the years, therefore attempting the northern route clockwise allows travellers to obtain their permits at most hotels in the city of Ha Giang.

As we had to enter the Ha Giang Province at the wrong-end, we had little to no information on where to obtain our permit. This was somewhat disconcerting as we had also read that without this permit, the police and military would seize motorbikes, impound them in Ha Giang, and then make you find your own transport there to pay huge fines and to sort the whole mess out.

We had no permit, we weren't sure where and how to get one, but we continued along our merry way hoping it would work itself out - getting closer and closer to the Ha Giang Province boundary.

A couple of long hits on my horn made Amanda pull over and look back. I had just passed a Pho Bo sign and I thought it was a good time for lunch. We doubled back and stopped into this family run place below.

After a steaming bowl of beef noodle soup and a cold Mountain Dew (crazy choices of soda pop in each of these shops), we got a picture of a bunch of the folks at lunch and then continued north.

At a Ho Chi Minh roadside monument.

It started to mist and slightly sprinkle, so we donned our rain gear and hoped it wouldn't continue.

As we pulled into the town of Bao Lac it started to rain harder and luckily this large hotel was staring right over us. We walked right up to reception and immediately had a challenge communicating with the young girl running the desk. Turns out, it was the daughter of the woman who runs the hotel. She started screaming at her mother to come to the front desk to deal with us as her teenage angst was making the process quite difficult, I'm sure more for her than us.

We were showed a room that hadn't been cleaned and it looked quite rough in our world, but we figured we didn't have much choice in this town and opted to take it. That is what you get for 200,000 dong or $10/night - a roof over your head. The woman proceed to change the sheets and give it a quick clean while we scooted our bikes up the main ramp and right into the hotel lobby for the night.

They had good WiFi in the hotel (as do most in Vietnam), and we opened up Google Translate to aid us in our permit dilemma. I figured they would know something about where we could obtain a permit before entering the Ha Giang province to the north - which we would be entering the following day.

Both the mother and daughter at the hotel had no idea what we were asking for. They kept shaking their heads as they didn't know anything about a permit to the north. It then hit me, why would they know anything about this, they lived in a different province, a province where foreigners don't need permits.

I figured with good WiFi, we could get online after dinner and dig for some more information.

Our parking spot for the night, in the hotel lobby. (An aside. I left my riding gloves on the speedo of my bike for the night - these were the gloves that took me from BC to Panama and back. I knew I left them there, but figured it was safe in the hotel lobby. Well, thanks to some douche, they weren't there the next morning :( Chilly hands for me for the next few days )

After hot showers at the hotel, we headed back into the showers outside to look for a restaurant for dinner. The hotel owner told us to walk to the left and there was a place to eat a few doors down. We found it, walked in, and immediately began conversing with the cook at the front. All we wanted was another bowl of hot noodle soup with beef or chicken - pho bo or pho ga (and hopefully NOT getting dog meat by accident as this is always a slight concern). As we start pointing at the glass case in the entry of the restaurant filled with mystery meat, we both point at the chicken that we clearly see sitting there in front of us. I proceed to say in my amazing Vietnamese, 'Pho ga, Pho ga'... thinking this would be easy to land ourselves a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cold, rainy Vietnam night.

One of the cooks comes over to our table once we sit down and organize our Coke and Bia Ha Noi, and he has a piece of paper that he has 200 written on. He is telling us that the meal will be 200,000d - basically $10, the same as a night in our hotel. Normally x2 bowls of soup, a couple sodas and/or beer was less than $5 total for the both of us. I'm taken aback as a savvy traveler thinking that we are getting 'gringo'ed' good, ripped off as-it-were. I look at Amanda and then back at the cook, and I tell him this is way too expensive, and then a few other things. He of course understood every word of my english, ... yeah, no. Another communication breakdown. We were hungry and tired from a long day on the road, this was the last thing we needed.

I handed him the paper and nodded to bring us the chicken noodle soup for $10. Who cares. Lets get on with this.

He then comes to the table a few minutes later with a large bowl of rice, a plate with the boiled chicken, and a small dish of soya sauce, ... and that was it (see picture below).

(It wasn't until later that night and after a discussion about the meal when we figured out what had happened at dinner. I was of course feeling ripped-off and discouraged as we didn't get what we wanted. We both realized that we didn't get ripped off, well, not totally. We actually paid for the amount of chicken they served us - with a bit of 'gringo tax' on top we are sure. We both remember the cook weighing the chicken after the '200' was written on the paper. The other thing we figured out a few days later is that 'pho bo' is normally served for breakfast and lunch, not for dinner. And, there is normally very little meat in the soup. We also later learned that the price of meat is quite high in Vietnam. It was a learning experience that we made sure didn't happen again in our travels - although it was bound to...)

Our wonderful evening meal in Bao Lac.

Next up - how would Superstorm Haiyan hit Vietnam? Would it affect us? And how were we going to get Ha Giang permits??

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Old 12-16-2013, 06:39 AM   #18
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Way too cool...

Next please
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Old 12-16-2013, 07:21 AM   #19
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Great report! Really enjoying it.
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Old 12-17-2013, 01:49 PM   #20
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Entering Ha Giang province without a permit

Day 7 - Monday, November 11
Distance - 78kms ~ 3.5hrs (Bao Lac - Meo Vac)
Route - Bao Lac west on Hwy #34 and then north on Hwy 4C to Meo Vac.
Hotel - Hoa Cuong Hotel - Meo Vac (400,000d = ~$20)
Weather - Another mixed bag. Mostly overcast and cloud with wet roads in the morning from rain the night before.

We both slept surprisingly well at our $10 palace in Bao Lac. Unfortunately our nerves were jittery and heightened with a few issues looming over us:

Firstly, we were quite concerned about the Superstorm Haiyan. We had read online that it was set to hit Vietnam landfall today. As well, we noticed that the storm direction had changed and was purportedly heading further north than anticipated, heading in our direction towards China. We were really hoping it would dissipate when hitting landfall and then drop down to a mellower storm status.

Secondly, we knew that we would have to 'enter' the Ha Giang Province without a permit, then hopefully figure out our permit issue in the town of Meo Vac, our next destination. We would be well into the Ha Giang Province without permit, but this was our only option as we couldn't obtain our permit in Bao Lac or anywhere else in that area.

When waking up in Bao Lac, it was raining steady. The weather was horrible and we were expecting it to get worse. We had a 'family-meeting', discussed options and decided together that we were safe, not in our hotel of choice, but it was a roof over our heads and our best option was to hunker down and hold tight. If the rain was that heavy first thing in the morning, and with the looming storm coming further north, it might get worse, not the safe conditions we would want to ride in. We opted to go back to bed for a couple of hours and then re-evaluate later.

At about 10am, I headed out of our dungeon and checked the weather again. I couldn't believe it, the skies were clearing up. The clouds were rising, the rain had stopped and I was even seeing a hint of blue in the sky. I hustled back to the room and gave Amanda the good news. We packed up efficiently and got on the road north.

We were both still nervous about the storm and the permits, but we plugged north on some spectacular roads and at each turn the views were becoming more and more breathtaking.

An ADV salute to the douche-bag who stole my riding gloves the night before

The constant rain the night before and that morning had made for wet, slick conditions on the roads. We took it easy and eventually pulled over for a road side break once things started drying out.

Mystery snacks! My favourite.

Mystery balls in my mouth (yeah - forget I even said that).

Our short day of riding (~78kms) turned out to be utterly kick-ass, especially after the way it started. The roads dried up and the twists and turns were endless.

Highway #34 west of Bao Lac was a good road with great scenery, but once we turned north onto Highway 4C and on to Meo Vac, both the roads and scenery became more and more unbelievable. We started to take some panoramic photos and these don't come close to doing this area justice.

At this point we were well into the Ha Giang Province. I was trying to be as positive and optimistic as possible that we could get our permits at an office somewhere in Meo Vac upon arrival (and not get pulled over by military police en route). As we had a much shorter riding day, I figured we'd get the whole thing sorted when we pulled into Meo Vac earlier that afternoon.

As we were hunkering down due to the weather early that morning, we spent some of the time looking further online into the Ha Giang permit coming in from the east. Again, information was limited and instead, Amanda and I found some forums that were horrible to read. The writing wasn't about the permits, but about the state of the roads in the north amongst other things. Neither of us are naive, but when you read into negative information online, especially when you can't find much information about an area, it is tough not to take it as the valid truth. We had read this one thread where a guy was stating how bad the roads were in northern Vietnam the further you headed north. He claimed the traffic was so bad with the large trucks and narrow roads that there wasn't a place for motos. It was also stated that all larger vehicles would try to 'run-you-off-the-road' and he even saw a few deaths roadside with larger trucks hitting motorcycles. When you read things like this online, it is difficult to take them with a grain of salt and not to worry.

(Another ADV salute - refer to my original salute - to this Negative-Nancy and his claims about the roads and traffic in Northern Vietnam). One word: ridiculous.

Both of us experienced the exact opposite the day reading these claims about these 'horrible' roads in northern Vietnam. As it was only our 3rd day riding in Vietnam we were as careful as ever, we tried to continue with this each and every day. We saw very little traffic, moved right over for any larger vehicles, waved, smiled, and we both had an incredible day.

Another pose with my trusty Honda XR 150. I enjoyed riding this little scoot, it was good times all around (aside from the butt wrenching saddle).

Pulling into our destination for the day - Meo Vac.

Amanda giving the thumbs up rolling down the twisty mountain into the town of Meo Vac.

The recent edition of the Lonely Planet recommended the Hoa Cuong Hotel situated in the middle of town. We passed a couple other hotels that looked decent as we pulled into Meo Vac, but we figured we'd have a look at the one recommended in the guide book. It turned out to be 10 times nicer than our accommodation the previous night in Bao Lac. It was $20/night, new, shiny, clean, lovely and had crystal clear flat screens with both CNN and BBC for up to date news on super storm Haiyan - perfect! (Turns out the storm fizzled as it hit Vietnam and mellowed as it worked its way north - we were lucky).

The obvious first question at the front desk of the hotel was asking where in town we could obtain our Ha Giang permits?? The woman running the hotel pulled out a big book from under the counter and said that she could produce our permits for us right then and there. She asked for our passports and she said she would add another $10 to our hotel bill for the permit.

I agreed and our permit-crisis was over, easier than ever, the permit was now in hand.

After unpacking the bikes and dropping gear in our room, we parked the bikes out back in the hotel's secure parking area and then took a stroll around town.

Ho Chi Minh monument similar to the bronzed statue a day prior.

Looking over at the Hoa Cuong Hotel (larger building two to the right of the bright blue building above)

Meo Vac central Market

Both Amanda and I were quite hungry and with almost choreographed timing, we were waved over to this road-side stall outside the main market. We sat down and had no idea what we were about to eat. The young man in the white and the woman doing the cooking kept serving us delectable delights that she was preparing. The food was super tasty and the entertainment of watching the slow-paced Meo Vac 'life-go-by' was an added bonus.

Kids learn how to ride the scoots in Vietnam at a very early age whether they like it or not.

The first thing on our plate was a spring roll stuffed with greens, spices and beans with a sweet and salty dish of pickled veggies to the left. We were also served a hot chile dipping sauce for the spring rolls. They were delicious.

Locals would pull up on their bikes, order a few items and be on their way. This woman's stall was popular and busy, a perfect place for us to watch life go by.

Vietnamese made - Detech 'Espero' bikes. That logo looks familiar, doesn't it??

I originally thought they were a Chinese made bike when I took the pictures.

I still question what might have happened had we been pulled over by military or police before entering Meo Vac, before we had our Ha Giang permit. I already had this statement loaded onto Google Translate that morning, 'Our permits WERE in MeoVac' as though we had them pre-planned or something, just to be safe - who knows if that would have helped?? I honestly don't think Police frequent those roads much and in the entire month of seeing them, they seem to avoid all eye contact with foreigners as you ride past. Even the Lonely Planet guide book states that you cannot do the northern loop backwards because of this problem. Why would they offer permits in Meo Vac if travellers didn't ride the roads in the opposite direction?? It is evident that more and more travellers are doing the northern loop backwards and this now seems AOK, from our experience anyway. We didn't see any police or military whatsoever. We were fine. I'm sure the next group of travellers will be fine, and hopefully the next, who knows. All part of the adventure. It no longer seems much of a risk to do the loop backwards, and all in all, it was an easy process to obtain the permit in Meo Vac, right at the Hoa Cuong Hotel front desk... done and done.

Next instalment - hard to believe, but the scenery gets even better. And Dong Van - northern most town in Vietnam (very few kms from the border of China).

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Old 12-17-2013, 10:58 PM   #21
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Enjoying your trip!

My brother and I did a remote ride in Northern Laos with a proposed and failed border xing to reach Bien Dien Phu. The trip was epic! He lived in Bangkok for several years and recently moved to HCMC. A Nam' ride is in order for us in 2014. So cool to do with your Missus. Looking forward to the rest of the story. Cheers
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Old 12-17-2013, 11:56 PM   #22
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Well that explains the mysterious half million dong fine a very angry policeman gave me whilst riding through Ha Giang province... Had no idea you needed a permit, I thought I'd somehow broken the speed limit with my mighty 108cc's and was getting a ticket.

Great report, looking forward to reading the rest of it!

Vietnam and Cambodia 2013
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:05 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Angus1 View Post
Well that explains the mysterious half million dong fine a very angry policeman gave me whilst riding through Ha Giang province... Had no idea you needed a permit, I thought I'd somehow broken the speed limit with my mighty 108cc's and was getting a ticket.

Great report, looking forward to reading the rest of it!

Glad I was able to give you an 'Ah-Ha' moment...

I guess you were lucky they didn't take your beauty 108cc?? Where did you get the ticket? Which direction were you traveling the northern loop?? 500,000d isn't a big deal in the big picture I guess (~$25). I'm surprised you were even pulled over... I rarely saw police in the north.


SoloSurfer screwed with this post 12-18-2013 at 09:01 PM
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:45 PM   #24
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Great report

I now have a new addition to my motorcycle adventure Bucket List.
Can't wait for the next episode.
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Old 12-18-2013, 07:01 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by SoloSurfer View Post
Glad I was able to give you an 'Ah-Ha' moment...

I guess you were lucky they didn't take your beauty 108cc?? Where did you get the ticket? Which direction were you traveling the northern loop?? 500,000d isn't a bit deal in the big picture I guess (~$25). I'm surprised you were even pulled over... I rarely saw police in the north.

Heading east out of Viet Quang from memory, I guess I was lucky, but they seemed pretty shocked to find a westerner on a fairly small road in the middle of nowhere

Vietnam and Cambodia 2013
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Old 12-18-2013, 07:09 PM   #26
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Location: Recalculating... recalculating.... HCMC-Vietnam :)
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I'm in. Thanks for sharing your own view of my Vietnam.
VIETNAM by Motorcycle | My Ride Reports on ADV

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Old 12-18-2013, 08:57 PM   #27
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Cảm ơn bạn VietHorse!

Originally Posted by VietHorse View Post
I'm in. Thanks for sharing your own view of my Vietnam.

VietHorse! I'm glad you found my RR.

Thanks so-much for your links and info on 'All about Vietnam', I found it very useful before my trip. I managed to get GPS tracks off one of the sites you recommended and they were a great addition to the amazing Vietnam map book I bought in Hanoi.

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Old 12-19-2013, 11:54 AM   #28
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Ma Pi Leng Pass - one of Vietnam's most incredible roads

Day 8 - Tuesday, November 12
Distance - 55 kms = total for day ~ 2-3 hrs (Meo Vac - Dong Van only ~24 kms)
Trip Odometer = 502 km
Route - Meo Vac northwest on Hwy 4C to Dong Van (then day tour west from Dong Van).
Hotel - Thien Huong Motel - Dong Van (350,000d = ~$15)
Weather - Morning fog and cloud, and then the skies opened up. Beautiful sunny skies followed by more cloud cover in the afternoon.

"Vietnam - tell us something we don't know... "

We woke up at our usual 6:30 am to hazy skies, overcast and fog. We knew we had another shorter day ahead of us, so we milled about, watched more CNN and BBC and slowly formulated our rough plan for the day. Within the hour, the hazy overcast quickly broke into blue skies and sunshine, a very welcomed sight.

We didn't want to leave the comforts of our amazing Hoa Cuong Hotel in Meo Vac (mind you - the bed was a typical Vietnamese 'firm'... pretty much like sleeping on a concrete platform with a few layers of cardboard for cushion, something to get used to).

Leaving Meo Vac - heading northwest along 4C

Once leaving Meo Vac - within a few kilometers we encountered a 'Y' in the road, one road heading up the side of the mountain and the other dropping into another valley below. Both roads were about as wide as golf-cart-tracks and my GPS stated that we were to stay on the high-road. A left it was and we started snaking up.

It was gorgeous, utterly breathtaking. We passed a cyclist grunting up the steep slopes and pulled over shortly after for a photo-op. Within a few minutes, up pedalled a bloke from Ireland, he too pulled over and we had a great chat. I immediately told him I wasn't near the man he was, toughing these hills on a pedal bike.... I only had the crack of my throttle to sweat over, such tough work.

Team Ireland and Team Canada - (burly fit man to the left, lazy throttle cracker to the right).

A few minutes later we had a roadside party. Two men and a woman from 'Saigon' (as they stated) pulled up on two bikes and they immediately started shooting photographs with large lensed cameras, mainly of us sitting there conversing. The young woman wanted to know where we were all from and what we were doing there. It was great, a random encounter party on the side of a Vietnamese hillside. Turns out, the young woman 'Trang' was working with these two guys who shoot photos all over Vietnam for various publications. She kept asking us what we thought of Vietnam, she spoke excellent english.

After our morning random-encounter-road-side, we all pushed on our individual ways to continue enjoying the spectacular day. The steep gorges carved through the landscape were incredible.

There was very little traffic and this was undoubtedly one of my favourite days of riding.

>>> I wanted to try and get some video coverage of these incredible stretches of road so I put my iPhone on a mount and then strapped it to my backpack chest strap and hoped for the best. The video is shaky but gives you an idea of how narrow and windy this road was.

At the Ma Pi Leng Pass we met some interesting folks while on the viewing platform. They were all there doing the same thing we were, enjoying the beautiful vistas and views.

I only took a picture of this young monk after he asked US to take our picture first. I think we all gave a good 'thumbs-up' for the photos.

Traveling west from Ma Pi Leng Pass getting closer and closer to Dong Van Town.

We eventually made our way to Dong Van - Vietnam's northern most town.

As we arrived to town relatively early and we shopped around for a hotel. The Lonely Planet suggested the Rocky Plateau Hotel - unfortunately the information was quite outdated as this place wasn't exactly what was stated. My guess is the hotel has gone downhill over the years with little maintenance. Their prices were high and the young woman at the front desk didn't speak any english. She put me on the phone with a guy who barely spoke english and it was frustrating to organize to even look at a room. (The LP also stated that Dong Van doesn't have a bank machine - which it did, I saw one across from the Rocky Plateau Hotel - although I didn't use it). We decided to keep looking.

Just down the road, near the main intersection of town, we found our accommodation of choice. It was a family-run place right in the middle of town called the Thien Huong Motel. It was great, the lobby doubled as a huge shop and the family's living room, all in one.

Nha Nghi - Thien Huong Motel - Dong Van Town.

We unloaded our bikes, loaded our gear into our room and took off around the corner for lunch and then for a fun afternoon of riding around Dong Van.

This was one of Amanda's favourite lunches. It was a fried-rice special with egg-on-top, complete with hot soup and fresh cucumber. Delicious.

Cafe Pho Co building - a historic old trader's house, over 100 years old and fully restored. I just had a quick look inside.

Seeing that we had the afternoon ahead of us, we decided to take a tour on unloaded bikes in and around Dong Van.

Amanda pulled over to shoot a quick video of me snaking and weaving along the roads and she quickly gained a posse of boys that were having a great time. I found a school below where I too met some interesting characters.

While waiting way down the road for Amanda to load up and say a sad goodbye to all of her recently acquired young boyfriends, this interesting man walked up beside me with a large wooden log by his side. I gestured at him if I could take a photo and he nodded and posed for the shot. I then showed him the picture and we had a nice smile and laugh together. He gestured at me that his skin looked the same as the log he was holding, all rough and weathered. He appeared to be a hard working man with years of grit under his fingernails. He had happy eyes and a similar demeanour. I'm sure this mountain-guru had stories to tell, it was unfortunate I didn't get to hear any of them.

While on our afternoon outing from Dong Van, we kept seeing these loaded down scoots fly past us along the roads. I'm not sure what they were transporting, but they were all extremely loaded down and as wide as small cars. Bikes of two or three kept rocketing past every now and then throughout the afternoon, all heading towards Dong Van. As we were a stones throw from the northern borders of China, this could have been a remote hauling route from China, either that or goods coming into Dong Van from Ha Giang city 150 kms further to the south.

Smaller village west of Dong Van

'Bee Wine' was a very popular 'local-speciality' in these parts. Bee hives dotted the hillsides and roadside stalls were selling random glass bottles of the stuff.

Views from our Hotel in Dong Van

Dong Van market.

That night, we had great success with ordering our evening meal. This was largely in part on how we ordered, but I also think the cook instinctually knew what to bring us. This was all agreed upon after I pointed at the dishes a neighbouring table was enjoying. The meal was able to satisfy our cravings all-round especially with huge plate of greens as we had felt them lacking in our recent meals. We had a plate of 'morning-glory' which was a fresh rooted green spinach of some sort. Then, we had a plate of tofu mixed with chicken and another plate of cured pork served with an onion and garlic sauce. We had our usual bowl of rice and some soy sauce if we desired. A couple of Bia Ha Noi's aiding in washing it all down, it was an excellent meal.

Our parking for the night, right inside the Hotel lobby-store-front-desk-living-family room.

Next up: Travelling south to Ha Giang city, the first crash, and a questionable Spa 'massage'...

SoloSurfer screwed with this post 12-19-2013 at 03:29 PM
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Old 12-19-2013, 06:23 PM   #29
PDX Alamo
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Ok I'm going

That last installment put me over, hopefully weather is good in march. Great RR
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:20 PM   #30
Comrade Art
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Wow, amazing scenery.
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